Toshiba fits 20GB onto 1.8-inch disk

Toshiba's tiny high-capacity hard drives are hitting new highs: The company is announcing 10GB and 20GB versions of the series.

Measuring 1.8 inches across--about the diameter of silver dollar coin--the double-sided, single-platter drives premiered at 2GB in May 2000 and expanded to 5GB in June 2001.

Toshiba has doubled the capacity in the 10GB model, and quadrupled it for the 20GB model, by adding a second double-sided platter. At last week's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, several companies including Creative Technology Ltd., RCA Corp., and SonicBlue Inc. unveiled handheld music players that use 2.5-inch laptop-style 10GB and 20GB hard drives in paperback-size devices weighing about 10 ounces.

The new Toshiba drives could match that storage in players about half as large. Drives of 1.8 inches are the optimum size, says Toshiba spokesperson Amy Dalphy. "There are a lot of [players with] 2.5-inch hard drives out there, but they're big."

The most notable application of Toshiba's 5GB drive is probably the Apple iPod MP3 player, which can store upward of 1000 songs. Though neither company will confirm that the iPod uses Toshiba's drive, representatives of both companies acknowledge Toshiba is the only one producing a 5GB drive small enough to fit in Apple's music player.

Beyond MP3 players

Music players are only one application Toshiba is banking on. Gigabytes of storage would also allow handheld devices to contain video files, for example. While she can't name customers, Dalphy says Toshiba is working with a number of companies--many of them startups--on a variety of product ideas that could use Toshiba's tiny drives.

"If they do make it to market, they will change the way we do things," she says of the unannounced projects in development. Dalphy expects products should start appearing between the middle and the end of 2002, or possibly earlier. Toshiba will ship its new 20GB drive in volume in February, and the 10GB version will follow in March.

Toshiba currently makes versions of its 2GB and 5GB drives embedded in Type II notebook PC cards. The 5GB MK5002MPL hard disk drive is priced at US$399, while the 2GB version costs $299. Dalphy expects Toshiba will eventually incorporate at least the new 10GB drive into a PC card, although she says the company is unsure whether there is much demand for a larger capacity in that product.

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